Brain Scans Reveal Why People Become Aggressive After Drinking Alcohol

Through the utilization of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans, researchers are able to measure blood flow in the brain to better understand why people become aggressive and violent after consuming alcohol. Research notes significant changes in the working of the prefrontal cortex of the brain after two drinks – a part of the brain that tempers an individual’s aggression levels. This study was conducted by Thomas Denson of the University of New South Wales in Australia, and was published in the journal of Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience. 

Fifty healthy young men participated in the study. They were either given two drinks containing vodka, or placebo drinks without any alcohol. Participants then had to compete in a task which has regularly been used over the past decade to observe levels of aggression in response to provocation, whilst lying in an MRI scanner.

The functional magnetic resonance imaging allowed Denson and his team to identify which areas of the brain were triggered when the task was performed. They were also able to compare the difference in scans between participants who had and had not consumed alcohol. Being provoked was found to have no influence on participants’ neural responses. However, when behaving aggressively, there was a dip in activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brains of those who had consumed alcoholic beverages.

“Although there was an overall dampening effect of alcohol on the prefrontal cortex, even at a low dose of alcohol we observed a significant positive relationship between dorsomedial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activity and alcohol-related aggression,” states Denson. “These regions may support different behaviors, such as peace versus aggression, depending on whether a person is sober or intoxicated.”

The results are vastly consistent with a growing body of research about the neural basis of aggression, and how it is triggered by changes in the way that the prefrontal cortex, the limbic system and reward-related regions of the brain function. The results of the current study are also consistent with several psychological theories of alcohol-related aggression.



Loneliness Could Be a Bigger Public Health Threat Than Obesity

Loneliness and social isolation seem to be a much more impending health problem than obesity. According to research presented by the American Psychological Association, approximately 42.6 million adults over age 45 in the United States are suffering from chronic loneliness, in addition to more than one quarter of the population living alone. More than half of the population are also unmarried, and marriage rates and the number of children per household have declined. “These trends suggest that Americans are becoming less socially connected and experiencing more loneliness,” said Holt-Lunstad.

“Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need – crucial to both well-being and survival. An extreme example to indicate this are infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment,” said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University.

Holt-Lunstad conducted two studies, with the first finding that greater social connection is associated with a 50 percent reduced risk of early death. The second study examined the role that social isolation, loneliness or living alone might have on mortality. It was found that all three had a significant and equal effect on the risk of premature death, one that was equal to or exceeded the effect of other well-accepted risk factors such as obesity.

“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” said Holt-Lunstad. “With an increasing aging population, the effect on public health is only anticipated to increase. Indeed, many nations around the world now suggest we are facing a ‘loneliness epidemic.’ The challenge we face now is what can be done about it.”

5 Ways To Fight Loneliness

  1. Get out and about
    Even if you aren’t directly engaging with someone, make the effort to be surrounded by people – whether it’s walking around the grocery store or working out at the gym.

  2. Meet with people in person
    Whether it’s being in contact with someone via email, phone calls or social media, that’s not enough. Social networks can offer real connections, there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Have confidence in yourself and reach out to people.
  3. Walk interactively
    Don’t just walk to your next destination. Travel with purpose and notice what is around you. Say hi and good morning to those that pass by you. You will be surprise at how much position connection you will receive in return.
  4. Sign up for a class
    Pursue a hobby that brings joy and adds value to your life. Participate in organized activities that provide creative outlets for social experience in which you and others can share common ground.
  5. Seek professional help if deemed necessary
    Utilize the tools and resources available to you in order to process your feelings and receive constructive feedback. For some this may be a therapist, and for others this may be seminars or events at local health/medical clinics. 

Become involved with SDPA and visit our website for helpful resources related to this topic.


Effects of 10,000 Steps Per Day on Mental Health

Lack of exercise is associated not only with physical health problems, but also with risk of mental health problems. Increased physical activity (PA) has been recommended for the prevention of cardiovascular disease; however, little is known about the effect of walking on physical and mental health outcomes.

A study was conducted, which included 30 participants who had to accumulate 10,000 steps daily for 12 weeks. Results concluded that each individual showed significantly lower anxiety, depression, anger, fatigue, confusion, and total mood distress scores compared with measurements taken prior to the intervention. Similar to this, Stanford researchers also concluded that walking in nature yields measurable health benefits, with reduced risk of depression being one of their main findings.

The Mayo Clinic explains it best, as they state that “The links between depression, anxiety and exercise aren’t entirely clear — but physical activity can definitely ease symptoms of depression or anxiety and make you feel better.” The word “exercise” may make you think of running laps around the gym, however it includes a wide range of activities that boost your activity level to help you feel better.

Certainly running, lifting weights, and other fitness activities that get your heart pumping can help. But so can physical activity such as gardening, washing your car, walking around the block or engaging in other less intense activities. Any physical activity that gets you off the couch and moving can help improve your mood.

As you strive towards reaching your 10,000 steps every day, you will receive many psychological and emotional benefits. It can help you:

  • Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges – even small ones – can boost your self-confidence.
  • Get more social interaction. Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
  • Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage depression or anxiety is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by indulging in unhealthy habits, dwelling on how you feel, or hoping depression or anxiety will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.

The South Dakota Psychological Association provides many helpful resources related to this topic. Visit our website for more details!


Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment. It is quite often associated with the saying “don’t let the future steal your present”. By learning and practicing how to be more present in the moment, the benefits to this mental lifestyle are endless. Studies have shown that those who adopt the mindset of living in the moment tend to be happier, calmer, more relaxed, and appreciative. It can also increase one’s ability to be in tune with their thoughts and emotions.

It is quite often said that depression lives in the past and anxiety lives in the future. Therefore, remaining in the present provides a sense of calmness and peace of mind. The excitement of awaiting something out of the ordinary or special is easily understood – whether it be bad or good – but by focusing so heavily on what isn’t currently happening, you miss out on all of the amazing things happening in front of you.

By being present in the moment, you obtain a higher level of satisfaction, allow yourself to have a better experience, and feel more fulfilled as the event has not come and gone as quickly. It is great to perceive time as a precious commodity. Don’t mentally rush through it or wish it away. Savor the moment, and start (or continue) doing the things you love and that fill you up. It’s when you fix your eyes on those slower moments of life that your appreciation and relaxation increases, opposed to anxiety or depression if your mind is focused elsewhere in time.

Read more about this article here! Also visit SDPA’s website for helpful resources related to this topic.


Become a Member with SDPA for 2018

Would you like to influence the health and well-being of South Dakotans? SDPA is the voice of the psychologists in South Dakota, and Your membership is Your voice! SDPA membership DOUBLED in 2017, and we’ve targeted another 25% increase in 2018.

Become a Member Today!

Grassroots advocacy works in a small state like South Dakota. let you psychology voice be heard through SDPA! ” – Hilary Kindsfater, PhD., Federal Advocacy Coordinator

Being involved in SDPA is an excellent way to stay current on local, state and also national issues in psychology. The membership to SDPA provides opportunity for renewal of old connections and making new ones with colleges in psychology. It provides a forum to discuss professional concerns and issues with other psychology professionals. It keeps you abreast of current psychological information about interesting topics, current therapies and legislation issues.”  – Kari Scovel, Ph.D., Public Education Coordinator, Rapid City

I support SDPA because SDPA makes an impact on the field of psychology in our state and the people we serve in our practices every day.”  – Danelle Pennock, Psy.D., Yankton

The networking is invaluable to me!” – Jodi Owen, Psy.D., Pierre

Membership Options:

  •  Division 1 Private Practice $75.00
  •  Division 1 Student $5.00
  •  4+ Post-Doctorate Membership  $225.00
  •  First 3-years Post-Doctorate Membership $125.00
  •  Associate Member $100.00
  •  Emeritus Status $100.00
  •  Academic Member $175.00
  •  Student Member $30.00

Become a member of SDPA to secure the future of psychology in South Dakota.

Contact SDPA@nonprofitresources.us with any questions regarding membership or the renewal process.


Your Vote is Critical to SDPA!

During the February 2017 APA Council meeting, a motion was passed (by a very large margin) to send a bylaws change to the APA membership to address representation on Council for SPTAs (State, Provincial, and Territorial Associations). The bylaws change would assure that each SPTA is guaranteed a seat on Council. Presently, seats on Council are determined by the apportionment ballot, split among SPTAs and Divisions.

The bylaws change was proposed because in 2018 only 59 of the 60 SPTAs will be seated. The US Virgin Islands lost their seat on Council after the last apportionment ballot. Given this, we were able to successfully argue during the Council discussion on this proposed change that each SPTA is an important individual entity, deserving of representation, despite its population or number of APA members.

SDPA, being one of the smallest Psych Associations, could be next in line to lose our council seat if this bylaw change is not passed.

If the Divisions get more votes in the apportionment ballot in its present form, then more SPTAs could lose seats, including small-population states like Wyoming and South Dakota.

Voting will be open until December 14. It is very important for you to vote. APA rules require that the membership must vote to approve a bylaws change, and this must be accomplished by a 2/3 majority of the vote. So please vote, and vote yes, allocating all your votes to our state association.  And please help spread the word to other APA members!


TX Invites Psychologists to Help Harvey Victims

APA has a new webpage for psychologists who want to offer assistance to people recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

CLICK HERE to learn more about how you can help.

indexThe Executive Director of the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists recently emailed licensees in Texas with the following message:

“In accordance with Governor Abbott’s disaster proclamation issued as a result of Hurricane Harvey, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists has suspended those portions of Rule 463.27 that could prevent, hinder, or delay access to mental health treatment for the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. Effective immediately, individuals licensed to practice psychology in another jurisdiction may apply for an emergency temporary license from this agency under Rule 463.27. Upon submission of documentation of current licensure and good standing in another jurisdiction, this agency will issue an emergency temporary license valid for 120 days, or until the Governor’s disaster declaration is lifted or expired. A copy of the application for an emergency temporary license may be obtained by clicking here: Temporary License Application. Please share this email with any non-Texas colleagues you feel may be interested in volunteering their services for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.”

If you have a different license type and/or wish to assist in Louisiana, please contact the appropriate board.  The worst way to help is to show up unannounced as a free agent. You can reach out to the Texas Psychological Association’s Disaster Resource Network Coordinator, Dr. Rebecca Hamlin at rj.hamlin@earthlink.net if you need help being directed to the appropriate Red Cross contact.  If you have further questions for APA about helping during this or other natural disasters, please email pracpr@apa.org.
The Psychological First Aid Field Operations guide is available online.